Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tucson Tails: Museum Here Opens Peerless Wildlife Blind To Camera Fans - Arizona Daily Star (blog)

2012-09-19T06:00:00Z Tucson Tails: Museum Here Opens Peerless Wildlife Blind To Camera FansJeff Espinosa and Thomas Stockton, Arizona Daily Star. Arizona Daily Star

Today's "tail" is of the subject of a couple of javelinas photographed behind a new bind.

--Tucson Citizen Dec 12 1953

By Byrd Stanley

Almost hidden among the cactus and palo verde not far from the main building of the Arizona-Sonora Desert museum is a tiny earth-colored structure which soon may be responsible for luring top naturalists and photographers from all over the world to Tucson.

It is a wildlife blind, and experts say there is nothing equal to it in the United States, a scientifically constructed paradise for those who want to observe and photograph desert wildlife at close range without being seen. But, to the layman, it is only a strange-looking hut on four levels with a profusion of wires and reflectors and sliding windows.

The usual photographic blind is a much smaller open square where a man can crouch and wait for animals to come by. Needless to say, such blinds never have been noted for comfort or push button controls.

The Newly constructed blind is made of concrete and celotex, and the floor and portion of the walls are covered with several thicknesses of heavy carpeting (not for luxury, but for silence). There are four swivel chairs each on a different level for different angle shots. There are camera braces and there are wooden slats which open just wide enough to give each photographer a clear view outside.

There is a central control system so that each photographer shoots at the same time and only flash goes off. Flash bulbs can be changed from inside the blind though the reflectors are outside.

Because the metallic click of a shutter opening can “spook” an animal even more than a cough or sneeze, Marvin Frost, official museum photographer, has invented a lever to hold the lens open until the lead man signals for the others to shoot.

At all times tiny bulbs of only 10 or 15 watts glow outside the blind to accustom the animals to the light.

This unique blind was designed and built by Lewis Wayne Walker, assisted by Marvin Frost and William Car, museum director. Walker, a noted natural history specialist and research associate of the Desert museum, is associated with the San Diego zoo, Scripps institute and the American Museum of Natural History. He is one of the nation’s top nature writers and photographers, widely known for his contributions to the National Geographic and other magazines.

Walker said he did not know of an natural history organization which operated a wildlife blind of this type, though there is a large blind on stilts in South Africa where as many as 25 persons a night pay a substantial fee to watch jungle animals which have been drawn by the scent of meant (usually a dead zebra). Spectators enter the blind at sunset, cannot leave until dawn.

Desert wildlife comes to the local blind for both water and food. Water was piped to form a tiny pool in a rocky gully only a few feet from the blind, and in the dry desert this is an inducement which animals learn about quickly. Meat is placed beside the water daily, along with suet and a small trough of barley. Later in the winter there will also be blocks of salt.

The wild visitors have included deer, skunks, javelinas, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, badgers and numerous species of birds. Bobcat and coyote tracks have been seen at the waterhole, but these animals have not yet been photographed from the blind. Most of the animals come in the early morning or at night, but this week a herd of some 10 javelinas arrived at noon.

Already several naturalists and wildlife photographers have used he blind, and Carr hopes in the future to work out some system of appointments so that it will be available to anyone interested.

As an example of how experts feel about the innovations, Roger Torrey Peterson, America’s leading bird artist, came to the museum to spend one afternoon last week. When he discovered the blind and was offered the use of it, he spent four day sand nights, and is planning to return again.

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